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Serving Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault
Message From the DirectorAbout This Guide
Transgender 101Sexual Assault in the Transgender CommunityTips For Those Who Serve Victims
June 2014
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Community Ramifications

Some transgender victims of sexual assault show signs of posttraumatic stress disorder or skills deficits that may stem from the assault. These may include hyper-vigilance (being constantly on the lookout for danger); being easily or extremely startled by sudden sounds or movements; poor concentration; irritability or outbursts of anger; panic attacks; sudden intense emotions; flashbacks or hallucinations; dissociation (having a reduced awareness of one's self and/or the environment); disorientation; amnesia; confusion; isolation; denial; numbing; fatigue; headaches; self-harming behaviors such as cutting; addictions; and substance abuse. Where can they turn for support?

The Internet provides ample information about transgender health, gender transition, and social issues, and most medium- and large-sized communities have in-person support groups or informal social networks where transgender people can meet and exchange information and support. However, these local transgender communities are generally rather small. Having such a small and interconnected social circle may be detrimental if the perpetrator is part of the same community. Two respondents to FORGE's 2005 survey talked about this problem28:

My partner's coerced/nonconsensual sex with another FTM has fractured the local community into parties who believe my partner, parties who believe the perpetrator, and parties who don't want to take sides (who are perceived to not believe my partner as a result). Moreover, there's no useful way to clear the air or hold the perpetrator publicly responsible without some degree of ostracizing him. It's a really evil situation.


My trans ex and I are part of a very small trans community, and as a result of our breakup, I have become largely alienated from our community. He is a respected leader in the trans community. He spreads rumors about me, and I don't defend myself because I don't want to engage him. But after leaving my abusive relationship, I pretty much lost my community. People don't take what happened seriously. It's difficult because it seems like every organization I want to be part of, he's there.

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Because the transgender community is so interconnected, and most communities have limited resources and inclusive support services, it can be challenging for transgender individuals and their loved ones to access support if the perpetrator is transgender or part of the transgender community. In these cases, providers and neutral community members should be prepared to help survivors find safe supporters and activities outside of the transgender community.

If an assault involving members of the transgender community is known publicly within the community, there may be extensive ramifications. Rumors about providers "taking sides" may encourage leaders within the community to advise against seeking services from a particular provider. Due to the small nature of the community, individuals frequently know who works with which providers and may share providers, which may cause people to no longer feel safe accessing certain professionals for support. This can have a significant negative impact on the provider and the community. Physicians and therapists with large transgender client bases may quickly lose a large portion of their clientele due to community fissures caused by a within-group assault. The community also loses a potentially valuable source of support.